Ministers have been accused of doing too little to cut the bills of 4.5 million people suffering fuel poverty despite promising extra help for the most needy households.
Campaigners, union leaders and opposition MPs dismissed as inadequate a package of measures announced to cut the number of people forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills.
Ministers met power firms and voluntary bodies yesterday at a summit organised by the power regulator Ofgem, and pledged to help the most vulnerable.
Sir John Mogg, Ofgem's chairman, said the package, which offers advice on switching to the cheapest energy suppliers and cuts the high cost of pay-as-you-go power meters, would "help ensure that resources to fight fuel poverty have the highest impact by targeting them precisely on those who need them".
Campaigners said almost one in five householders were living in fuel poverty and that ministers faced missing targets for eliminating fuel poverty by 2016.
Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, said the summit was "inadequate" and older people in particular were being left badly exposed.
Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said many of his members were forced to choose between food and heating last winter.
Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth have launched a legal challenge aimed at forcing ministers to do more to meet targets for cutting fuel poverty.